DIY “French Cleat” Wall Organizer
When I was planning out the entryway of my new home, it took me forever to decide what would go on the wall next to the basement door. I knew I wanted something to organize my “upstairs tools” aka, small tools I regularly use upstairs and don’t want to have to go down to the basement to get every time I need.
But what?? It needed to be flat, 3 inches deep or less, else risk blocking the door from opening. Pegboard seemed like the obvious choice. But pegboard seemed so utilitarian, which is good and well for the basement, garage, or craft room, but this organizer was going in my kitchen!!
It needed to be attractive as well as functional. Eventually I came across references to a “french cleat” organizational system. It’s apparently a common way that woodworkers organize their workshop. It consists of strips of wood with an angled top nailed to the wall.
It looks nice (although I couldn’t find any pictures to show you that do it justice), but requires a table saw for the strips, and you have to build each tool holder separately. Um, no thanks. But the idea of horizontal strips on the wall? I could use that.
Note: This blog contains affiliate links. If you click and make a purchase, I may receive compensation (at no additional cost to you.)
The Fake “French Cleat” Wall Organizer
- 1″ x 3″ x 8′ Furring Strips (4)
- 1″ x 2″ x 8′ Furring Strip (1)
- Wood Glue
- Brad Nails
- 1 inch nails (24)
- Wood Stain (optional) and Finish
- Wood Conditioner
- 3 inch screws (for mounting)
- Belt Sander (Optional: if you don’t have a belt sander, purchase higher quality wood so less sanding is necessary)
- Orbital Sander
- Miter Saw
- S-Hooks, for actual organization. These ones fit perfectly for the furring strips; there is exactly 0.78″ of space between the “S” metal part. The furring strips are 0.75″ thick, so this creates a snug and secure fit.
Step 1: Prep the Furring Strips
I used furring strips because I like saving money and furring strips are quite possibility the cheapest wood on the market. However, furring strips look terrible when you first take them home.
So I had a lot of sanding to do. You can minimize this step by buying more expensive wood; pretty much any stainable 1 x 3 will work.
To prep the furring strips, I sanded with a belt sander using 120 grit sandpaper. This quickly smoothed the wood without creating large sanding marks like a lower grit paper would have done.
Then I sanded with 150 grit with my orbital sander to smooth everything a little more. It went quickly; I maybe spent 30 minutes sanding my five furring strips.
Unsanded furring strip
The exact same spot after sanding with the belt sander. After this picture, I sanded with 150 grit sandpaper using my orbital sander.
Step 2: Cut the Furring Strips to Length
I cut my vertical furring strip (the 1 x 2s) into two 46″ long pieces and my horizontal furring strips (the 1 x 3s) into twelve 30 and 1/2 inches long pieces using a miter saw. I have this miter saw, which slides and is generally awesome, allowing me to cut up to 24″ wide with a little extra work. I highly recommend it if you don’t have a miter saw.
Step 3: Paint/Stain and Finish the Furring Strips
Super duper important PSA: furring strips are made of soft, cheap wood. They will stain TERRIBLY unless you coat them in wood conditioner first. Trust me, I tested a scrap piece first, and it was not pretty. So before staining my actual strips, I applied a bunch of wood conditioner. I painted the two 46″ long 1″x 2″ pieces white, and stained the twelve 1″x3″ pieces with Minwax’s English Chestnut stain. I’m apparently super into this stain recently; I’ve used it on this table, and this organizer, and think both turned out gorgeous, despite taking the stain very differently.
Step 4: Assemble the Organizer
I started by securing the horizontal strips to the white vertical pieces with wood glue and nails. This was not the final way I secured the pieces, just how I started.
You’ll note in the above picture that I had pieces of scrap wood between the white pieces at both the top and bottom of the organizer. This was to hold them the same distance apart as I added boards.
This way, the strips stayed parallel to each other. I also had 1.5″ spacers between each board to make sure that the spaces were even. See picture below.
All the spacers meant that as I laid and secured boards I only needed to think about how much distance was between the end of the board and the white piece, which in my case was 3″ on either side.
I didn’t feel the wood glue/brad nail combo would be enough to hold the boards in place should I actually put anything heavy on the organizer, so I flipped it over and added 1″ screws to each “joint” of the organizer. I countersunk these screws using this countersink bit to ensure they didn’t stick out and push my organizer further away from the wall.
Sidenote: I just got the bit the other day and I love it!! I’ve used it so many times, and it’s made a bunch of projects easier (including this one!) that I’m not sure how I lived without it for so long. It came with four different sizes, and while I haven’t used anything other than the #6 bit, I still find it amazing.
These are the holes created by the countersink bit. I was going to take a picture of them with screws in them too, but apparently I was so excited about the countersink bit that I forgot…
Step 5: Mount Organizer to Wall
You’ll mount the organizer with screws that go through the white furring strips into the wall. In an idea world, both furring strips would align with studs. I wasn’t able to make this happen; only one of my furring strips aligns with a stud. Since I have plaster walls, on my other furring strip, I made sure at least two of screws hit the wood lath behind the plaster. If you have drywall molly or toggle bolts are an option for mounting that second furring strip.
I put three screws through each white furring strip; one on the very top, one in the middle, and one on the bottom. I then painted the screw heads white to disguise them a bit, as shown in the picture above. Note that in the picture above, you can see the screw pretty clearly, but it is a super close up photograph. I promise that once you’re 2-3 feet away, the screw is almost invisible unless you know to look for it.
I purchased these bin organizers from Home Depot. I thought this was a great price for three; they’re meant for pegboards, but certainly work in this capacity as well.
I paid around $40 to make this organizer. That cost includes four 1 x 3 furring strips, one 1 x 2 furring strip, wood condition, S-hooks, and the metal bins. The rest of the items I already had around the house, so if you need to purchase items I had, your cost may be more.